Monthly Archives: April 2015

Gifts from the Spirit

A fellow named John, perhaps John the disciple, gets a revelation, a series of visions. As he believes the revelation has come by way of an angel, he writes down his visions.

I’m writing about Mount Shasta, California forty years before I first saw it, and the layout of the town comes to me. Later, a woman who has read the book writes and tells me she lived in Mount Shasta during that time, and she wonders how I got it exactly right.

A novel I’ve labored over most of my adult life, and as yet haven’t mastered, still calls me to go back and fix it, though I’ve been willing to let other manuscripts stay on the shelves for eternity.

Richard Shelton is sitting atop his roof when the phone rings. He’s expecting an important call, so he starts to climb down but slips and falls into a tree, which breaks his fall. He scurries out of the tree and runs into the house but misses the phone call, and in a flash, a whole poem comes to him. He writes it down and submits it to The New Yorker. They publish it. Years later, he can still say it was the only poem he has written that he didn’t revise.

When I tell stories about my relatives and other people I know, I get comments like “How come you get to meet all the interesting people?” One reason I like to use people I have known as the beginnings of characters I fictionalize, is that so many people I have known intrigue me. People we meet can be gifts from the spirit.

Gifts from the spirit may include such occurrences as confidence that although we haven’t a clue where the story is headed, it will find its way and lead us to some event that brings the previous stuff together. Even words, images or lines that spring to mind most unexpectedly may be gifts from the spirit.

For a whole book about writing and the spirit, click here.

Angels and Demons 2

While Googling, I came upon this quote:

“With the Enlightenment and triumph of rationalism, belief in angels disappeared; but contemporary theology, basing itself on psychoanalysis, has come to a new appreciation of the symbolic role of angels and demons as expressions of the Freudian superego and id.”*

Light flooded my dim brain, as I recognized the extent to which our culture is a battleground between science and belief, between devotion to the supernatural or to the observable.

Witness the excellent and most profound film Nacho Libre: Nacho attempts to baptize his tag-team partner Esqueleto so God will help them win the wrestling match. Esqueleto declines, and announces, “I don’t believe in God. I believe in science.”

A common position is, if you believe in science, you can’t believe in God. Another common position is, if you believe in God, you can’t believe in science.

I taught at a college whose distinction was it’s mission to keep alive the notion that God created the world 5000 years ago. I don’t profess to know enough about carbon dating and such to weigh in on the subject. Still, I can’t help but feel sorry for people whose belief requires an absolute adherence to the literal interpretation of texts that may never have been meant to be interpreted literally. And I feel even sorrier for those who can’t accept that anything might fall outside the realm of scientific observation and analysis.

Returning to the quote that inspired this rant: to equate demons and angels with the Freudian superego** and id*** appears to me staggeringly simplistic.

The pilot who recently crashed his airliner into a mountainside was simply acting in accord with an id untamed by a superego? Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson et al were simply driven by untamed ids?

Not likely.

Which is why I salute Frank Peretti for portraying angels and demons as spiritual entities to be reckoned with. Even if his vision of cartoonish warriors doesn’t fully convince me, it makes a lot more sense than clashing superegos and ids being at the core of the human propensity to create reigns of terror, or to perform great sacrifice.

As I asserted in the post entitled “Angels and Demons 1”, churches aren’t likely to help us come to understand angels and demons. The topic is dangerous and fraught with too much complexity.

So I deeply hope some of us writers can rise to the challenge and shed new light on a most intriguing and vital matter.

*From “The Angel and the Self in the Poetry of José Ángel Valente” by José Ángel Valente and Julian Palley, in The Hispanic Review

** From About Education: According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the superego is the component of personality composed of our internalized ideals that we have acquired from our parents and from society.

***  From About Education: According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality. The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs.